Difficult as this is to admit, I owe Rick Santorum a huge correction. On the day of his Iowa triumph, I wrote that if he won the GOP nomination, I would start the rumor that he's secretly a Mormon. "What kind of a Catholic," I asked on Facebook, "forgoes both alcohol and caffeine?"
There are indeed some Catholics who refrain from alcohol and caffeine, though not for religious reasons. Rick Santorum is not numbered among them. We'll get into the particulars in due course. A correction is owed Santorum rather than an apology because I was misled. But perhaps that is self-serving and I should have known better.
American Spectator readers were subjected recently to a whole column by yours truly about an awful sentence from Politico's new e-book serial The Right Fights Back, by Mike Allen and Evan Thomas. (It had to do with political consultants and nuns and the Virgin Mary and… just go read it.) Now, it looks as though the dumbfounding duo has done it again.
Allen and Thomas didn't spend much space on Santorum in their book. The most memorable thing they said about him was contained in this sentence: "Despite eight town meetings that day, Santorum did not have a drink -- he does not even touch caffeine."
Now, it's possible that Santorum doesn't drink caffeine, though I'd bet it's just as likely he didn't want to get too wound up to go to bed that night. But the insinuation that he doesn't drink beer -- a notion cemented by the very next sentence: "His relaxation is Fantasy League Baseball" -- is pure, undiluted hogwash. I know this, ironically, because of an article in Politico.
A piece by Caitlin McDevitt ran on the Politico website in December under the hard-to-mistake headline "Rick Santorum, Beer Connoisseur." The article photo has Santorum wearing a gray jacket over a black mock turtleneck tossing back a beer sampler at Iowa's Millstream Brewery.
"I don't do wine tastings. I do beer tastings," Santorum explained. Then he went on to show that he was not kidding. He said his taste in beer runs to "the stouts, the bocks and then the white ales and the wheats." Santorum said he will drink Guinness or, in a pinch, a light beer, but only "if it's really hot." He also, correctly in my estimation, judged IPAs to be "a little too bitter."
Allen and Thomas got the story wrong here for two reasons. One, they played a journalistic game of telephone and didn't listen closely. The setting was Kay's Kafe in the town of Corning, Iowa. Santorum stopped in "late on a raw early November night and found six patrons watching the last game of the World Series on TV," and who was also there but "Joe Klein, the Time magazine columnist."
Readers who know anything about baseball can probably spot the obvious clanger there. The World Series recently stretched into November, but it's unusual. So I checked and, sure enough, the last game of the World Series for 2011 was on October 28. (The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers 6 to 2.) The second reason they got the Santorum beer story wrong is that it reinforced their narrative of Santorum as a no-hope candidate with unstinting Puritanical instincts. Allen and Thomas can take some solace in the fact that they aren't the first journalists to get tripped up over their notions of the man. Just last August, former New York Times editor and current op-ed columnist Bill Keller confused the very Catholic Santorum for an evangelical. His paper had to issue an embarrassing, though sober, correction.